Inviting the Speaker: Recommendations for a Successful Event
Program chairperson is one of the most important jobs in the society or club. The more efficient and enthusiastic the program chairperson, the more successful the meeting will be.
It is important for the organization to have a policy on how many speakers are needed for meetings throughout the year, and then set a budget for paying speakers, printing handouts and purchasing whatever else is needed by the program chairperson.
The following recommendations will assist societies in engaging speakers in a clear and business-like manner. This preparation will help provide a stress-free event with minimal distractions for the speaker and attendees.
- Contact speakers as far in advance as possible. Most speakers have busy schedules and several dates may have to be discussed before finding one open to both speaker and society.
- If initial contact is by phone, follow-up immediately with a written confirmation letter or email. This helps avoid any misunderstandings. Include the following details: The day of the week, date, time, and location of your meeting or program.
- Indicate the time you wish the speaker to arrive and whether he or she is speaking before or after the business portion of the meeting.
- Confirm the topic. Have the speaker provide the exact title and program description, especially, if you will use it in any publicity.
- Confirm the fee, honorarium and/or reimbursement of costs to the speaker.
- If lunch, dinner and/or special accommodations are to be provided, include these in the confirmations.
- Confirmation of any equipment to be provided by your society (overhead projector, computer projector, microphone, podium, table for displays, etc.) and equipment provided by the speaker.
- Amount of time allowed for the presentation, including time for questions from the audience. If you must vacate the meeting room by a specific time, let the speaker know.
- The number of attendees expected.
- Establish who will print the handouts, the speaker or the host society. If your society is printing the handouts, let the speaker know the deadline date by which you need the masters.
- Permission to audio record or videotape the presentation, if applicable.
- Provide the names, phone numbers and email addresses of at least two contact people that the speaker can contact. Provide a cell phone number the speaker can call the day of the meeting, in case of emergency or unanticipated delay due to traffic, car problems, etc.
- Request a short biography and brief description of the presentation to use in the society newsletter and other publicity, and for introducing the speaker. If there will be publicity, ask for a photo of the speaker. Provide the date by which this is needed.
- If the speaker will attend the meeting in-person, include the full street address for the meeting place and directions to the location.
- Give the speaker an approximate date at which you will be in contact again to make final arrangements.
- Contact the speaker no later than one week before the day of the event to confirm he/she will be there and for any last minute details.
- To avoid technical disasters, have back-up equipment (projector) available in case the speaker’s equipment fails. Have a spare projector bulb on hand.
- Have a host/hostess greet the speaker upon arrival. If the speaker brings books, props, displays, etc., offer assistance in unloading and setting up.
- The program chairman or designee should introduce the speaker. Verify proper pronunciation of the speaker’s name. Never ask the speaker to introduce him/herself.
- Compensate the speaker at the end of the event.
- Send a written thank-you note after the event.
Offer these same courtesies to speakers who are members of your society. They put just as much time and effort into their presentations as guest speakers.